The Many Morbid Tales of Spookinite Valley
A Tale of Doleful Joy
Written by Benjamin Fouché
I gazed out my window, witnessing the isolated patches of snow sinking into the soil—and the radiant icicles aloft diminishing one by one. The trees gave subtle signs of spring’s long-awaited advent. Yet unlike every other spring, this forthcoming one whispered to me of joyful promises—promises that would enwrap me in a happiness—a happiness that would vanquish recollections of the winter and its death-offerings. My Basset Hound, Lorelei, rose from her slumber. Her pale-blue eyes looked up to me with hope. The sun’s rays shone upon her white and gray fur. Her long ears hung to the floor and she smelled the air. Together, we left our home and trod down a path through the awakening countryside. The birds hopped out from the brushwood searching for worms and grubs and the once-frozen brook beckoned me with its familiar sound of water rushing over boulders.
The earth below my bare feet became warmer and its icy touch was decreasing with every stride. The grassy knolls turned greener and the robin-egg blue sky brightened. Lorelei barked as she looked up towards me—her tail wagging with a delight only a hound could know. I smiled, but the memories of winter returned like an unwanted specter. Once more, I stood in the cold room that was our home. The fire had become nothing more than a pile of dying embers and my mother and father stood before a mere straw bed. My ill grandfather lay in that mere straw bed. In the weak, ghastly light of the lamp, my father—usually a man of a stern and reserved disposition—was nearly broken. I walked over and stared upon my grandfather. His breathing intensity increased all at once and a look of struggle came upon his time-worn face. And with one final breath—and a final tear shed from each eye—he departed the temporal realm. My father collapsed to his knees, my mother holding him closely. He clung on to me sobbing, and it was then that I had finally known the irredeemable throes of The Reaper.
Yet the singing of the birds and the landscape in which I stood brought forth a hope. The air was warm and the scents of the pines and cedars banished my melancholy. How I adored this time and the gifts of spring. A fiery fox with a belly of white hastened into the woodlands. A mother duck and her ducklings waddled towards the pond—and golden hares hopped amidst the meadow. The oaks, maples, and hickories bloomed whilst mourning doves cooed with an affection only the Mother Mary could possess. Even so, the majesty of spring abruptly became shadowed by a copse that singularly stood in the countryside. Within this group of old, knotty trees was a cemetery. And in the cemetery stood my grandfather’s recent gravestone. My eyes then focused on the statue of a hooded phantom pointing towards the ground below with its gaunt, cadaverous finger. Nevertheless, the comforting statue of an angel stood on the other side pointing upwards—her feathered wings broadly stretched.
Lorelei howled and hurried away. I followed her, once more beholding the splendor of life. The lilies, daisies, marigolds, and violets swayed in the breezes whilst the cardinals, blue jays, robins, and wrens sung. Summer had approached by noon, for the oaks, maples, and hickories now bore a canopy of green over the sylvan foothills and mountainsides. I paused for a moment and sighed. In that brief moment, I knew not what I anticipated, but I waited notwithstanding. However, it was not long before the heart of summer enveloped my soul and my eyes once more stared towards the splendid scene before me. In the meadow, I sat down.
“How I yearn for this to remain,” I cried. “How I yearn for the ground to stay warm and the grass to stay green. I long for an eternity—one with the peaceful songs of the birds and an everlasting impression of glee.”
Lorelei licked my face and woofed as if I had been talking to her. I stood up, and together, we trudged through the friendly sunshine. By the afternoon, hints of autumn materialized here and there. The ground was no longer as warm and the leaves transfigured from green to gold, ruby, and orange garnet. The now-grown ducklings flew towards the horizon and a bleak overcast sluggishly consumed the heavens. I sighed once more, and paused. A bluebird then hopped in front of us and chirped. The bluebird was evidently female, for her feathers were a silver-gray and her breast was a light orange. But rather suddenly, Lorelei ran towards the bluebird and caught her. I shrieked and demanded she release the bird from her jaws. After Lorelei let the bird be, she was already injured.
Carefully, I took the bluebird in my hands. She breathed with her beak open and watched with her precious black eyes. Lorelei, now ashamed, sat upon the ground and whimpered at me.
“I know you were only doing what a dog does—it’s nature, after all,” I said.
And to be truthful, I was not angered by my hound’s actions. Yet I wanted to make certain the bird would live. We solemnly trod down the path and found ourselves again—at length—before the forlorn cemetery within the copse. By now the sun was beginning to set and the twilight held dominion over the countryside. The air was also colder—the wind stirring the branches and causing the leaves to fall. But then there was a silence. I observed the bluebird in my hand. During that moment, she flapped her wings, bestowing upon me the hope of life. Yet she breathed fast—faster—and fastest—then slowest—and thus she breathed no more. Her lifeless head lay on my hand and the grim soundlessness endured. Placing the bird upon the ground, I dug a shallow grave with my hands. And once more picking her carcass up, I laid it at the bottom of the grave. As I did this, her lifeless head turned over. She was undoubtedly a lovely bluebird—even if her colors were not as vivacious as the males.
When the final handful of soil was placed into the bluebird’s small grave, another bluebird hopped near me—brighter and more colorful. It chirped mournfully, lamenting the death of his mate. A haunting gust of wind chilled the air and violently scattered the leaves. Lorelei and I marched away—like a funeral march. Once I returned home, my mother and father greeted me. But I said to them, nearly choking on the knot in my throat, “I have no wish to see death again—and for this reason, I will never return. Goodbye mother. Goodbye father.” They pleaded with me to stay, yet I would not listen.
I made haste into the winter night with Lorelei. She bawled, and I said to her, “Nor do I wish to remain with you, for I do not want to be here the moment your breathing ceases.” She whined with concern but hurried back towards the homestead.
Through the descending snow, I walked—wishing to forsake what frightened me most. The idea that I would one day witness the death of my father or mother was intolerable—but I did not have to! And therefore, I quickened my pace through the blustery, unfeeling air. Surely they would miss me, I reasoned. But no! I could not see death again, for its torments knew no bounds and I had seen its merciless effects on my own father. The wind over the gnarled and skeletal branches of the treetops groaned louder while my thoughts remained. Time carried on while I stayed far from those I loved. I grew older and weaker and more afraid. And before I knew it, my regrets emerged in a discomforting abundance. These regrets forced a courage upon me—yet I was reluctant. Once I returned to my homestead, I saw that the meadows had been overgrown with dreary thorn-bushes and the house was dusty and vacant. How long had I been away? What joys of life did I miss merely because of fear? These questions conjured forth an indescribable delirium and sorrow.
I thus departed for the churchyard with a rising dread. Upon arriving, I noticed that there were two other gravestones next to my grandfather’s. With apprehension and precaution, I entered the cemetery and approached the unfamiliar headstones. The moonlight beaming through the dead, snow-coated trees shone upon the names engraved upon them. I dropped to my knees and the knot in my throat strangled me while I wept. As I wiped the tears from my eyes, I noticed another headstone directly beneath the base of the hooded, wraith-like statue. Before the new grave marking was an oblong hole in the earth—and within the gaping cavity was a coffin—a coffin for me. The hooded statue of impure marble only gazed into my eyes heartlessly whilst its bony index finger pointed into my grave. I then looked upon the angel statue on the opposite side. She was beautiful in the silver rays of the moon—her figure carved from pure-white marble. She pointed up towards the heavens with a look of benevolence upon her face.
“I would much rather be buried beneath you,” I said. “And I would much rather journey to the place towards which your finger points.”
I turned and looked back over to my grave awaiting its burial. I sighed, for I knew what I had to do during that hopeless moment. Climbing into the coffin, I shut the lid. As the earth fell back into the hole, I heard the chirping of the bluebird I had buried and the bark of Lorelei—and these sounds were ones of harmony and restfulness. Thus now, I shall sleep in my coffin. For when I awake, I will enter the place towards which the angel statue points.
© Spookinite.com - All text, music and photographs by Benjamin A. Fouché | Music: "Winston Manor Mortuary" by Morbus Tenebris